Chapter 1

Zoe Mayfield could not remember the last time she had dressed with so much care.  The street was full and she was forced to park a block away from her destination.  A breeze kicked up as she walked down the sidewalk in the dimming light, making goose bumps ripple across her exposed flesh.  She tugged at the hem of her little black dress, wishing it were longer.  Courage, she thought, but one hand kept darting up to brush over her bare cleavage, giving away her nerves.  She took a deep breath and shook her wavy auburn hair away from her face.  

“Here I go,” she whispered.

Bloomfield Towers was an upscale complex and Zoe had to check in with the front desk to get to the elevators.  She walked slowly across the lobby, mind racing and full of anxious thoughts.  Her divorce had recently become final, and though she had been separated for a year, this was her first date in almost seven years.  With a trembling hand she reached for the elevator button.

The ride up to the penthouse floor seemed to take forever, giving Zoe time to examine her reflection in the shiny metal of the doors.  Her hand fluttered over her cleavage again and she blushed.  Lost in thought, Zoe didn’t realize the elevator had stopped until the doors opened.  With slow steps, she left the safety of the elevator, walked down the hall, and stood in front of Sergei’s door.  Panic threatened to creep in, waring with excitement.  Finally, she knocked, just two short raps.  Before she was ready the deadbolt clicked and Sergei stood before her.  

His blonde hair was unkempt, but in a deliberate way, and his designer clothes were perfectly tailored to fit his body.  Sergei leaned against the doorframe, a small smirk on his face.  There was no doubt, he was very aware of his affect on women.

“My darling, you look so lovely,” his voice was like warm honey running down her spine.  Zoe could not help but imagine the feel of his tongue on her bare skin.  

Pulling her into the room, Sergei lips met hers in a soft kiss.  He spun her around, closing the door with his foot.  Zoe was a goner; her breathing sped up and butterflies filled her stomach.  His tongue was soft and tasted sweet in her mouth.  Something she could not explain happened whenever she was near him.  She was unable to think clearly and was much more careless than normal.  If she managed to think hard enough about it the whole thing seemed a bit off, but she just chalked it up to underused hormones.  His touch brought her back to the moment.  She shivered as his hands slipped down her arms to remove her coat.  It was electric.  Sergei wrapped his arms around her waist in a tight embrace, all the while kissing her more deeply.  All doubt vanished from Zoe’s mind; she was consumed with lust for this mysterious man.  The kiss ended, to start again at the hollow of her neck.  His teeth scraped her skin gently, making her gasp.  Zoe moaned and Sergei responded with more urgency.  The words he whispered to her were in an unfamiliar language but sounded beautiful.  His icy blue eyes seemed to look into her soul as he began to undress her.  That rolling accent absolutely broke her.  Never before had she felt such surrender, such total loss of control.

The room was dark and quiet.  The only sound was Zoe’s deep, even breaths and the slow steady beats of her heart.  Her scent filled his nose and he breathed in slowly, matching her inhalations.  It gave him something else to focus on, besides the thump-thump that filled his ears.

Why had he let her stay?  No one ever stayed.  They came, they had fun, they went home.  He shouldn’t see her again, he knew that, but something about her called to him, and he wasn’t able send her away.  Instead, he lay in the dark, drinking her in.  Asking to see her again had been a mistake, but he’d found the words flowing out of his mouth anyway.  Sergei did not need complications in his life, and human women were without a doubt complications.  He was acting like a school boy with his first crush.  It had been over a century since anyone had any effect on him; it was such a foreign and uncomfortable feeling.  There was something about Zoe that he just didn’t understand, but he felt drawn to her.  Given his past he knew he should walk away without ever seeing her again.  He also knew he would continue to see her anyway.

Sunlight streamed in through the window, lighting up the room and waking Zoe from her slumber.  She looked around, remembering she was in Sergei’s bed and not her own.  He was gone, but there was a note on his pillow:

My Dearest Zoe,

Last night was incredible.  I had business to attend to this morning, but you looked so angelic.  I could not bear to wake you.  If you like, come back at 8 o’clock tonight.  I’ll be waiting.


Zoe was not disappointed to find she was alone.  The memories from the night before flashed through her mind with a surreal, dreamlike quality.  She was a bit unnerved at her behavior whenever she was around Sergei.  Something about that man made her act so impulsively.  Seeing him again would be a bad idea, she thought.  To hell with it, she thought as she added her own note to the bottom of Sergei’s.

Blue Room. 8:00p.m.

Her hand writing looked sloppy next to Sergei’s scrolling, old fashioned letters.  Agreeing to meet with him somewhere other than his apartment was her way of regaining control of the situation.  If they continued to meet at his place they would fall into bed again without having spoken a word.  She was uncomfortable with a relationship based solely on sex.  Maybe if they met on her terms she wouldn’t feel so reckless and out of control around him.  Maybe.  Zoe had no idea what she was doing and that scared the hell out of her.  Deep down she felt it was time to start living again.

Zoe walked down the street to her car.  Deep in the pit of her stomach apprehension was beginning to build and she did not want to go home just yet.  It wasn’t her pending second date with Sergei that was bothering her, of that she was sure.  She could not help thinking about her court date Monday with her ex.  Who else would come along and rain on my parade, she thought.  Even now the bastard could upset even her best mood.  She had thought his days of making her miserable would end along with the divorce, but no, that would have been too easy.

As Zoe unlocked the door to the two story Victorian style house she had inherited in the divorce the phone rang.  The answering machine clicked on as she set her purse down on the counter.  James’ voice filled the room, making her glad she had not rushed to grab the phone.

“Zoe, come on.  Answer the damn phone.  I know you have nowhere to be on a Saturday morning.  Fine, be a bitch, as usual.  You better fucking call me before the hearing on Monday,’ click.

“Not a chance in hell, buddy.  Not a chance,” she said to the voice that was already gone.  At the advice of her attorney she did not speak to James unless both attorneys were present.  Along with the divorce, Zoe was suing James for all rights to the holistic center he had helped her start.  James Mayfield was a successful plastic surgeon in Birmingham, Michigan.  When Zoe had wanted to start her own holistic center, Phoenix Healing, James had helped her.  Foolishly she had agreed to put everything in both their names when they started out.  Zoe was a massage therapist, but the center had a Reiki Master, acupuncturists, hypnotists, yoga instructors as well as certified councilors and a psychologist.  James had convinced her it would be easier to get financial backing if his name was on the papers since he was already an established partner in a private practice.

There was little chance of James keeping any part of the center, but Zoe was still stressed.  He had a very successful practice, meaning he’d never had time to help Zoe out at the center.  Zoe had run the day to day operations of Phoenix Healing from the start.  It was only his arrogance and a desire to hurt her more that made him contest the suit at all.

At exactly eight o’clock Zoe Mayfield walked into the Blue Room.  It had taken all her self control and a lot clock watching not to be embarrassingly early.  A few heads turned as she made her way to the bar.  Her first drink was bought before she even sat down.  A very handsome man in his fifties, distinguished by a line of silver shot through his black hair, was responsible for the drink.  He quickly introduced himself as Dan, and Zoe now made a point to flirt a bit with him until Sergei arrived.  She wasn’t used to this kind of attention from strangers and it just added to the reckless element that had been flowing through her lately.  

“What’s an attractive young woman like you doing in place like this all alone?” Dan asked, somehow pulling off the very cheesy pick up line.

“Well, Dan, I’m waiting for a...” she paused deliberately to consider her words.  Crinkling her nose with a smile she said, “A friend, you could say.”

That ridiculous banter went on for about fifteen minutes.  When Sergei entered the bar Zoe pretended not to see him and continued talking to Dan.  Sergei was there in a flash, sliding a hand around Zoe’s waist and kissing her softly on the neck.  Dan cast a jealous and disgusted look their way and slid off his barstool.  Zoe’s resolve to play hard to get flew out the window the moment Sergei touched her.

“Let us get out of here,” he said, looking into her eyes.

There was a brief moment of confusion and a misty feeling entered her brain.  It was almost as if his words had a life of their own and were compelling her to listen to them.  Zoe shook off the feeling and followed him from the bar.  The chauffeur was waiting with the door open and Zoe slid in first.  Sergei’s arms were around her in an instant and she heard the door close behind them just as his lips found hers.   

The tinted windows offered them privacy, and she quickly forgot they were in the back of a car.  His hands slid over her body, exploring everything.  One found its way under the hem of her dress, and as he kissed her that hand slipped into her panties.  Zoe moaned and nipped at his lower lip.  His fingers glided over her slick skin and she clung to him, digging her nails into the fabric of his coat.  She was desperate to feel his smooth, hard skin beneath her fingers.  The drive back to his penthouse was too brief.  She felt the limo pull to a stop and the engine shut off.  Pulling away, Zoe straightened her clothes.  The driver opened the door and she slid out of the limo with her eyes on the pavement.

Inside the penthouse Sergei tackled Zoe and they fell, laughing onto the sofa.  He kissed her again, taking time to explore every inch of her mouth.  She was shocked at how quickly they had reached the couch, and the fact that he had managed to cushion her landing.

“Dance for me.”  His eyes sparkled at the request, more like a gentle demand that tickled at her brain again.  The same misty feeling drifted through her, but the feeling of his hand softly caressing her breast distracted her.  Sergei suddenly stood over her.  He moved too fast, but she couldn’t focus on anything but his eyes.  It had been so long since anyone had looked at her that way.

“Dance.”  He turned on a stereo she had not noticed before.  Soft, sexy jazz filled the room.

Sergei reached over, pulled Zoe to her feet and placed her in front of him.  He sank down into an oversized chair and she felt the misty compulsion in her mind again.  The look in his eyes moved her, and her body began to flow with the rhythm of the funky beat.  Her body felt as if it had a mind of its own.  All embarrassment fled before this newfound feeling of freedom.  She was at home in her skin for the first time in so long.  In the back of her mind she felt like something was off, but she couldn’t seem to figure out exactly what it was.  This was not the kind of thing she normally did, but that did not seem to matter just then.  She hesitated, shaking her head and trying to clear her thoughts.  One look into Sergei’s icy blue eyes and her doubt vanished.  Zoe danced for him with no shame, turning her movements into a slow strip tease.  Piece by piece, she tossed her clothing at him.  He let out a laugh, deep with need, and motioned her closer.  Zoe leaned over him, pressing her breasts to his face.  A deep, guttural sound escaped Sergei’s lips.  He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close and then they fell back into the plush carpet.